Their districts are conservative — but not so conservative that jumping off the fiscal cliff wouldn’t potentially backfire in the next election. A general-election challenge from the left is a bigger threat than a primary from the right. And being able to tell most of their constituents they shielded them from a big tax hike was more important than being accused by a vocal few of selling out Republican principles. …

Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, who occupies a seat in the western part of the state, said supporting the package — as unpalatable as it was for the Republican faithful — was far more palatable than veering off the cliff. …

There were other factors at play among the 85: Many have been in Congress long enough to know an era when deal making wasn’t taboo. They wanted to support their leader, Speaker John Boehner, when he needed it most. Among the supporters were six of the 13 Republicans in Boehner’s home-state delegation of Ohio.

Then there were the handful of defeated or retiring Republicans — liberated from the pressures of reelection and free to end their time in Congress knowing they’d done their part to head off a potential recession.